Fire Sweeps Home of Lead Singer for The Lettermen

Times Staff Writer

A fast-moving fire Wednesday night caused damage estimated at more than $550,000 to a Woodland Hills home and sent a pop singer crawling through dense smoke to safety.

Tony Butala, lead singer with The Lettermen, escaped unharmed as flames raced through his hilltop home in the 5500 block of Mason Avenue.

But the fire destroyed antiques and artwork and Butala’s nine gold record albums--including his pop trio’s most famous hit, “Goin’ Out of My Head.”


Six Los Angeles city fire units brought the 6:15 p.m. blaze under control after about 20 minutes.

Battalion Chief Donald Grant said the fire apparently was caused by a short circuit in a clothes dryer. The dryer was in a laundry room next to a den where Butala said he displayed his most prized possessions.

“I can’t believe it spread so fast. I had to crawl out, the smoke was so thick,” Butala said.

He said the framed gold records included hits from the ‘60s and early ‘70s, including “Hurts So Bad,” “The Lettermen” and “Summer Place.”

Also destroyed were antique music boxes, musical instruments, a signed Salvador Dali print and other valued items, he said. He estimated the loss of the contents alone at $400,000 to $500,000.

Grant said structural damage to the 3,600-square-foot home was about $150,000. He said the fire spread quickly because windows to the home had been left open Wednesday to air it out because new wallpaper had just been applied.

Butala said he and his wife, Greta, had lived in the house only a few months. Greta Butala was grocery shopping when the fire occurred. She said she had been doing laundry most of the day.